We love Buon Italia in Chelsea Market for all their fresh ingredients imported directly from Italy, and what better way to enjoy those ingredients than prepared in a traditional Italian-style panini? La Panineria offers just that since it was opened by Mario Pesce, whose uncle is the owner of Buon Italia over in Chelsea Market. La Panineria is a quaint, authentic little Italian deli that offers sandwiches, pastries and desserts, soups, cheese plates, beer, wine, soda, and coffee, in addition to their small selection of Italian groceries. The shop is small, with just a couple of barstools in the window and one central table for people to eat around, but the food is absolutely delicious. We sampled the Parma Panini — a perfect combination of prosciutto and robiola cheese, along with the Cornetto — the Italian’s take on the croissant filled with Nutella and sprinkled with powdered sugar. Needless to say our taste buds were satisfied as we chatted with Mario about the subtle but notable differences between “American” Nutella and authentic Italian Nutella (Italian Nutella is apparently slightly healthier!).
There is nothing contemporary about this white tablecloth Italian restaurant where a simple rose sits in a vase on each table. How refreshing to make a reservation and be able to dine in a relatively quiet room, enjoying classic Continental cuisine. Brothers David and Danny Ramirez have worked diligently to preserve the old-world feeling that began back in 1919 just a few doors down, where Gene opened the original restaurant. In 1923, he moved to No. 73 where, for a few years, he operated as a speakeasy during Prohibition. Through wars, recessions and more, Gene's has thrived.... and since 1979, when the brothers' father took it over, they have strived to maintain the same character and quality of food and decor - the original wood bar stands proudly right up front. It is obvious that people in the neighborhood appreciate their efforts, as David told me that some patrons have been dining here steadily for over thirty years. And why not, for the food has remained consistent all this time. The same chef now for thirty-two years has been cooking Clams Casino, their signature dish, a variety of pastas, veal parmesan, chicken piccata and many other classic entrees. Chatting with David one afternoon when the restaurant was quiet, he shared some childhood memories with me. Growing up in the family business served him well. He began as a bus boy, and was groomed to take over a few years ago when his father retired. One of the best stories, for me, though, was about a gentleman who has been eating lunch here for years, each week dining with a different guest, but always ordering the same thing - three bowls of their vichyssoise soup - a favorite of mine too.
For a culinary adventure in fine Italian dining, I must recommend Il Mulino. Scoring a reservation is not easy, but I have been fortunate enough to sample their incredible food and twice been rolled out the door after a massive, rich meal. Opened in 1981 by two brothers who had a passion for preparing simple food with fresh ingredients and a desire to introduce New Yorkers to their hometown of Abruzzo, Italy, Fernando and Gino Masci began a journey that has resulted in continued accolades all these years.
On any given beautiful day, this restaurant is set up early in the morning and looks incredibly inviting. The windows are swung open and there are roses on every white linen table. Shut down temporarily by a fire in October 2011, Il Cantinori seems to have quickly bounced back and the people in the neighborhood feel like they “haven’t skipped a beat since they served their first Italian meal in 1983. ” Part of that is because, aside from adding a few mirrors on the walls, Il Cantinori was restored to its exact pre-conflagration state. The staff saw no reason to change the décor that customers had come to adore. Upon our arrival to Nicola Kotsoni and Steve Tzolis’ Italian restaurant, we were greeted by a waiter who had been with them for over seventeen years. We learned that he works ten shifts a week, since his customers “love him so much. ” The general manager, told us that he had no idea what they would do when the beloved waiter decided to use his well-deserved vacation days. The general manager had also been with the restaurant almost since its inception, stating that he stayed because of its attention to “consistency, quality, ambience, and service. ” He went on to say that Il Cantinori “is like a ‘home’” both for the people who work and dine – “We have been open since 1983 and there is still a line out the door on some evenings. ” Continuing on, the manager was pleased to announce, “And everything tastes exactly like it did in the 1980s. ”He was a terrific storyteller, seemingly unsurprised when I told him that I could listen to him all day. “I have had people tell me I should be a stand-up comedian, ” he said matter-of-factly. “A reality show of this place would be amazing, ” he suggested, as he had countless fun tales about his quirky Manhattan regulars -“I am from Brooklyn, ” he explained, “so I grew up normal. ”Despite the fact that Il Cantinori receives many high-profile clients - Andy Warhol and Basquiat were known to be regulars - the manager insisted that “97. 8 percent of the people who come here are really wonderful people - really nice. ” When he told me how the “crème de la crème of New York” continue to come to Il Cantinori, he made it clear that he did not just mean celebrities, but the real New Yorkers - the wonderful people who make this city what it is. There is a unique relationship between the staff and the network of New Yorkers who visit Il Cantinori. Everyone knows everyone: customers bring their favorite waiters Christmas presents, and on occasion, the staff has been known to walk the dogs of some of their guests. Il Cantinori will do anything for the people who dine on 10th Street. “It is really small town in a small city, ” the manager explained. “People barely consider us personnel. I tell everyone they are my friends, except they pay for dinner. ’”So much to write, and I have yet to mention the food. The staff of Il Cantinori treated us to a veritable feast. While sitting in the back room flooded with afternoon light, under a whimsical black chandelier made to look like a seppie (the cuttlefish whose ink colors black risotto), members of the Manhattan Sideways team tasted a delicate squash and zucchini salad, scrumptious paella, crispy roast potatoes, green beans and asparagus, and something that the waiter rightfully called “the best pasta, ” filled with peas and sausage and a light creamy sauce. The atmosphere was perfect: we were surrounded by Nicola’s elaborate and illustrious bouquets of dogwood and cherry blossoms, that the manager told us would open into devastatingly gorgeous blooms within a few days. Of Nicola he said rather seriously, “I do not know what her parents fed her as a child, but the creative part of her brain is amazing. ” Ending our spectacular meal with classic flourless chocolate cake we turned to one another and acknowledged that we now understood what the manager had boasted earlier: “People don’t come here to dine, they come here to eat. ” There is no doubt that at the end of the day, the beauty of Il Cantinori is that the food and staff are always superb.
Be prepared to wait, and then to wait some more, but once seated, there was no doubt that it was well worth our almost two hours. The good news, though, is that there are many terrific bars to visit on 10th Street while passing the time. Opened at the end of June 2012, Rosemary's has not skipped a beat since they began. The restaurant is always packed and on any nice day, the large windows are wide open onto 10th Street. We ate here on a Friday night in the middle of September. Everything that we ordered was just superb. My chopped salad had crunchy chickpeas, artichokes, olives, caper berries, ricotta, and more, but it was the fresh lettuce leaves and the perfect dressing that really made it all come together. And then came the pasta - linguini that was also cooked to perfection tossed with preserved lemon, pickled chili, and parmesan. Oh my goodness, it was just heaven. Once we were two for two with my meal, and everyone else was also thrilled with their choices, I decided I had to give dessert a try as well. The olive oil cake with whipped cream and blueberries was also terrific. Rosemary's does not take reservations, so to avoid the long waits, I might suggest is choosing an odd time - obviously not the weekend - and have a plan B (Manhattan Sideways has many to recommend).
On a beautiful, tree-lined strip of 9th Street sits this old-world, white tablecloth, Northern Italian restaurant. The ambiance is warm, the staff professional, the dining room elegant and the food delicious. There are a few tables that spill out onto the sidewalk when the weather cooperates, but a larger outdoor space is available in the back garden where we chose to dine.
What a find... down a flight of stairs from street level on 8th Street, Arts and Crafts Beer Parlor is the "antithesis of a sports bar. " Artisan and craft beer are brought together in a friendly environment that certainly had us feeling like we were right at home. The Parlor is also named for the Arts and Crafts movement, “a cultural revolt against the ideals of industrialization. ”When we visited, we spoke to Robert, one of the two owners, with whom we thoroughly enjoyed chatting. Robert is an internationally recognized speaker and writer on dining out and traveling with special diets (he co-authored the series Let’s Eat Out! ), and he also has a background in acting and producing on Broadway. He told us that the other owner, Don, has an impressive resume working with the FBI and counterterrorism efforts both in New York and around the world - which left us wondering what brought this dynamic duo together as friends and eventually co-owners. Robert informed us it was a love of American Craft Beer and the visual and performing arts... and that they actually met enjoying a pint of beer in Manhattan. Just as intriguing as its owners, the interior of Arts and Crafts is beautifully designed; the sophisticated wallpaper is custom made by Bradbury and Bradbury, and the soft green and beige pattern was Frank Lloyd Wright’s favorite, supposedly. The constantly changing art is displayed along the wall opposite the bar, and an exposed brick wall and fireplace give the parlor a true “extension of your living room” feel. Described by Robert, as the “Bugatti of beer systems, ” the twenty plus beers the Parlor keeps on tap rotate monthly and are kept by this state of the art system at a refreshing 32 degrees Fahrenheit. Robert also astounded us with how small the carbon footprint of the Parlor is — he told us they are very conscious of keeping things compostable and earth-friendly. In addition to their rotating display of art from both established and up-and-coming artists, the Arts and Crafts Beer Parlor also hosts a monthly lecture series on the subjects of art as well as culinary topics. We could not get enough of how interesting this place is — both the concept of art and beer coming together and the two fascinating minds behind it.
The Village Party Store, also known as Balloon Shop NYC and Halloween Headquarters, is a one-stop shop bursting with festive finds. From Christmas baubles to Pride parade supplies, this humble hole-in-the-wall has everything needed to throw a bash to remember. Inside, the shop feels like a dollar store, with packed aisles full of plates, cups, banners, costumes and more. But the real gems are the memories made here. Since 1993, New Yorkers have flocked to this party supply store to prepare for life's celebrations, big and small. For many, it's a family tradition to pick up graduation balloons or new year's hats. For others, it's the perfect place to find a last-minute baby shower gift or bridal shower decor. What makes the Village Party Store stand out is its focus on customer service. The knowledgeable staff help each customer find what they need for their perfect party. Next time you're planning a special event, check out this Greenwich Village gem. You'll find what you need for a celebration to remember.
Warhammer is the retail branch of an online British company that has been providing its unique gaming service for thirty years. The 8th Street location is New York's hotspot for miniature table-top war gaming. Eager workers will walk customers through every step - how to assemble the models, paint the pieces, and how to play the game itself. It takes a certain kind of patience and skill set to contract one's army and may appeal to a customer who enjoys strategy games such as chess. While it is recommended that kids begin learning the game at age twelve, we met a half a dozen men from ages eighteen to fifty who were sitting around the large table, chatting and toiling away on their magnificently detailed pieces.
Over many months, we had the pleasure of observing the construction of Amelie through each stage of its creation. To experience the ambience of this spectacular bar and restaurant alone is worth the visit... but then there is also the impressive wine list and a full French menu. The award-winning team behind Amelie in San Francisco opened their east coast wine bar in early 2012 and all we can say is tres delicieux.
Coffee tends to be a grab-and-go phenomenon here in Manhattan – the coffee break does not generally get its due respect. Here to change that completely, Stumptown’s 8th Street location elevates the coffee shop experience to a level unseen by most caffeine-addicted New Yorkers. I only know this because Jared, a member of the Manhattan Sideways team, is one of them. The double-height ceilings, large windows, and carved wood façade of the corner store actually used to house the historic 8th Street Books. The interior of the building has been meticulously and beautifully renovated to include an enormous wooden bar, coffered ceiling, warm herringbone floors, exposed brick walls and numerous small clusters of tables, chairs and benches. The store is divided between the intimate café area and a brew bar - a coffee exposition/educational space where baristas can engage customers in learning about different methods of making coffee and the various types of coffee beans. The brew bar has at least five different types of machines and manual brewers running at the same time with a lovely, knowledgable staff orchestrating all of it. Stumptown endeavors to build a community out of our many, rushed coffee drinkers, creating a perfect setting for relaxing and reading, or for someone to simply become better educated about coffee.